The Indelible – part of The 11th Annual East Side Stories celebrating the life and lore of the East Village – captures the individuality, audacity and spirit of three locals: Jonas Mekas, who founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative in 1962 and the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque in 1964, evolving into the Anthology Film Archives (written and performed by Lillian Rodriguez) in That’s How Angels Arranged; Jeanise Aviles, a spunky hair and color specialist, among other things (written and performed by Jason Brown) in ¡COLORBOMB!; and Jimmy Webb, aka The Punk Peter Pan, frontman for Trash and Vaudeville clothing stores (written and performed by Tammy McNeill) in Gimmee Life. Each monologue, under Chris Harcum’s direction, breathes new life into these iconic neighbors and their portrayals makes the audience feel as if they knew them firsthand.
Rodriguez, Brown and McNeill all go that extra mile to establish a connection – and make eye contact with every single audience member contained on the three sides of the theater. As they share their stories, the emotion and passion used to bring out the truth in each of these East Village residents is well translated from a period in time to the present day. While the historical elements are fascinating and provide context, the ultimate theme of acceptance, finding a guiding light to outshine the world’s cruelty, and celebrating life creates a lasting impact.
Each actor’s attire, designed by Sidney Fortner, intricately captures his/her colorful personalities – from the old-fashioned garb of Mekas, complete with a newsboy cap and long jacket, to the explosion of color that was Aviles, from the magenta eyebrows down to the bright shoes, to the daring leopard print pants and signature leather jacket, resembling the get-up of Jimmy Webb – and honors their unique differences. Like all the colors in a crayon box, these residents are the face of the East Village – with all its grit, darkness, ferocity, and yes – life-saving beauty. This is proof that even the bleakest of circumstances can’t hinder dreams from coming true.
After each resident shares his or her story, attention shifts to a video screen behind the actor with a photo of the resident that is being portraying – which makes for a touching tribute. Lighting created by Christopher Weston and sound design by Michael Hardart amplifies the experience by paralleling their emotional states – with everything getting brighter when appropriate, and lights dimming upon tales of hard times.
With regard to the theme, the mastery of gender bending provides an additional layer to the already deep portrayals. It didn’t really matter as much if these individuals were men or woman – it mattered that they were human. Each story of finding one’s way, fighting through the difficult stages and celebrating life is universal, and just as these individuals were ahead of their time, it is up to the rest of us to let that forward-thinking be our guide.
11th Annual East Side Stories (through May 3, 2015)
The Indelible (performed in rotating repertory with Riots, Real Estate, and The Vanguard;
Upcoming The Indelible performances: 4/26 @ 4 pm; 4/28 @ 7 pm; 5/2 @ 7 pm; and 5/3 @ 1 pm)
Metropolitan Playhouse, 220 E. 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800- 838-3006 or visit http://www.MetropolitanPlayhouse.org
Running time: 80 minutes without an intermission